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Amazon and Google start e-book sales in Brazil

A woman uses an Amazon Kindle e-reader in a whirlpool on board a cruise ship.

Randall Moore/The Globe and Mail

Amazon.com Inc and Google Inc. both opened their digital bookstores in Brazil on Thursday, hot on the heels of e-book offerings by local booksellers in a fast-growing online retail market.

The simultaneous introduction of the two services highlighted the wide-open nature of Brazil's $12 billion e-commerce market. Low Internet penetration and a swelling middle class have spurred bets on strong growth for years to come.

Amazon will begin selling its Kindle e-book reader in Brazil in coming weeks for 299 reais ($140 U.S.), the e-commerce powerhouse said, ending months of speculation that it could arrive by acquiring a major competitor.

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Brazil's biggest bookstore chain, Saraiva SA Livreiros Editores, is trying to sell its online business, but a person familiar with Amazon's strategy told Reuters in October that the U.S. company would stick to its focus on organic growth in foreign markets.

In Brazil, the Kindle will take on Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Apple Inc. tablets that often cost as much as twice their U.S. retail prices due to import tariffs, steep taxes and inflated local production costs. Local bookseller Livraria Cultura sells its Kobo e-reader for 399 reais.

The rival Google Play service will offer e-books and movie rentals on computers and mobile devices running Google's Android operating system.

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